The value-for-money debate in Higher Education has put institutions and tuition fees in the spotlight once more, with many students wanting to enter the job market using less of their time and money.
For the UK to sustain, grow and widen access to its world-class Higher Education system, institutions and policymakers need to listen and respond to differing student needs.
The UK Government has announced an expansion of two-year degrees at £11,100-a-year tuition, with the potential to significantly reduce student living costs and tuition fees when compared to the full duration of a traditional three-year degree. These fast-track degree programs are already offered at several UK universities, including Anglia Ruskin University, and have been praised as offering more choice to a student body that has increasingly diverse expectations and demographics.
Rethinking the three-year model
In our recent survey of domestic students (both current and prospective), we asked what they think about accelerated degrees. Our results show that there is an awareness, but the take up of them is still low. 53% of respondents had heard of two-year fast-track degrees while only 1% of respondents were currently studying for one.
With awareness of them still relatively low – 40% never having heard of them – it is not surprising that only 35% think that it is a good idea and 43% don’t know whether it’s a good idea or not.
Our results do suggest however that domestic students are interested in the value-for-money that accelerated degrees offer. The proposed fees of £11,000 per year mean that students potentially save a total of approximately £5,000-£6,000 compared to the full fees of an equivalent three-year degree. Half of respondents say this represented good value for money.
When it comes to other benefits, 72% of respondents said that the decrease in tuition fees was the biggest advantage of two-year degrees, closely followed by 70% of respondents saying that students studying two-year degrees would accumulate less debt. Half also believed an advantage is two-year degrees offer the opportunity to enter the workforce earlier than they would have done if studying a traditional three-year degree.
On the other hand, some students that answered our survey feel that the shorter amount of time studying means that the student experience would be compromised. Reasons include that there would be less time to develop as an individual living away from home and that opportunities to take part in work experience and volunteering whilst studying would be reduced. Some students said that it could also probably lead to a stress due to rushing the course content.
An expansion of two-year accelerated degrees?
Whilst this was a small piece of research (160 respondents) on domestic students’ opinion of two-year accelerated degrees, it is clear that value-for-money remains an important consideration for students. Now is the time for institutions to take heed of students’ understanding and perception of two-year accelerated degrees and the market potential that they hold.
This should be balanced by an understanding of the importance of international students to the UK HE sector. As our previous research has shown, the awareness, interest and understanding of two-year accelerated degrees are low in this student population.
Two-year accelerated degrees could be one part of sustaining and growing the UK’s world-class higher education system. There is an opportunity to do more work on explaining the benefits of this structure to international students so that it can be marketed as a sustainable alternative to the three-year model.
As ever, QS stands ready to listen to students and help the HE sectors across the world to recognize and respond to their differing needs.
Download the most recent edition of QS’ Domestic Student Survey report, and we’ll email you when the 2019 version is published in January.